Virtual Tour


This world-famous bonsai is the creation of one of North America's greatest bonsai masters, John Naka. Mr. Naka started this "forest-style" bonsai in 1964 as a tribute to his seven grandchildren. By 1973 he had four more grandchildren so he added four more trees. He named the eleven-tree forest "Goshin" (go-sheen), Japanese for "protector of the spirit." It's hard to spot all eleven trees in this photograph. When you visit the Arboretum, though, see if you can find eleven trunks.


Bonus fact:
A proud American born of Japanese parents, John Naka lived in California until he died in 2004 at age 89. He learned about bonsai from his Japanese grandfather, who also taught him Japanese proverbs. These proverbs were published in a book by a friend of Mr. Naka's, Nina Ragle. One of the proverbs was used as the title of the book: Even Monkeys Fall Out of Trees. When you say this to someone, it should remind them that since even very skillful people can make mistakes (even monkeys can sometimes miss a branch they're grabbing for), we should be tolerant of everyone.

Mr. Naka was such a great and famous bonsai artist that he was honored both in Japan and the United States: In 1985, the Emperor of Japan gave him that country's highest award for non-citizens, The Fifth Class Order of the Rising Sun; in 1992, the United States' National Endowment for the Arts presented him with a National Heritage Fellowship Award. As famous as he was, though, Mr. Naka always laughed and took time to share his knowledge. He was the best kind of teacher.

John Naka standing next to a sculpted portrait of him
John Naka standing next to a sculpted portrait of him in the North American Pavilion of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in 2001. He adorned his bronze bust with his own hat and extra pair of glasses.

How to find "Goshin" at the Arboretum:
Sometimes Goshin is moved to the pedestal in the fountain in the courtyard of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, but usually it's the first bonsai you see when you enter the North American Pavilion. In the winter, it's in the Chinese Pavilion, where most of the bonsai go because it has a roof that protects the trees from ice and snow.

Scientific name for Goshin's trees: Juniperus chinensis var. foemina (Foemina Chinese juniper)

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Last Updated   July 10, 2009 9:21 AM